SAN FRANCISCO: December 10, 2003


"All Orthodox Russians Must Repent for Abandoning the Laws and Rules of Piety."

How do you evaluate the first visit of a delegation to Russia of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia since the 80-year schism? What model of possible reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church/Moscow Patriarchate do you envision?

Our delegation will report on its visit to Russia at the forthcoming All-Diaspora Pastoral Conference and then the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. All possible variations of the relationship of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church/Moscow Patriarchate will also be discussed at the Conference and the Council. These are questions which are subject to examination and then subsequent decision by the Council of Bishops.

During the Soviet era, the relationship between the Russian Church Abroad and the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate were hostile. The Soviet regime no longer exists in Russia. In regard to this, has the attitude of the Russian Church Abroad towards Russia changed?

The Russian people in exile never tore their bonds with Russia, never forgot about her, even though they could not travel to Russia. The country was generally closed to Russians living abroad for political reasons. It was as though to be Russian and Orthodox was a matter of politics...Here we prayed for Russia constantly, and tried to the best of our abilities to bring benefit to Russia and do as much as we could for her. For 80 years, believing Russians prayed to the Lord to free Russia from the yoke of the godless state. And the Lord heard our prayers–communism collapsed without bloodshed. For many Russians who were born in exile–Russians by faith and by blood–they met for the first time their homeland. But besides spiritual joy, this meeting also brings some disappointment. Russian societal consciousness today does not represent pre-revolutionary Russia. In my opinion, the mission of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia at the present time is to return to Russia her spiritual legacy of Orthodox Rus’, as we preserved it. This will be our contribution into the spiritual recuperation of society.

The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was established in the 1920's as a temporary structure, the end goal of which was the reunification with the Russian Orthodox Church. What, in your view, are the prospects of rapprochement of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia with the Russian Orthodox Church/Moscow Patriarchate? What hinders the mutual understanding between the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate? Who and what can eliminate these obstacles?

The leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate once found itself under full control of the godless state. Had we entered into ecclesiastical communion with the Russian Orthodox Church, we would have become responsible for everything that was happening in Russia. Now the government in Russia does not speak out against religion, there are people of faith and integrity at the head of government, and, it would seem, there are no obstacles for unification. In essence, the Russian Church is one, and a more complete expression of this unity is church consciousness. The existing division is an abnormality which should be overcome. At the same time, I could never assume such a responsibility myself. Such a decision can only be made through the conciliar wisdom of the Church, that is, of the Council of Bishops.

If one speaks of the unification of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church/MP, then what would the prerequisites be?

One cannot speak of administrative unity at all. This is absolutely impossible, even on a practical level. The most we could talk about is communion and concelebration. On my part, I would be happy and grateful to God for Him to allow me to live to see the day and participate in such momentous days–the return of the Rus’ abroad to the homeland, the unification of Russian people around Orthodoxy.

In prior years, it was said that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia would unite with the Church in Russia when national repentance in Russia would occur. How do you see this?

I heard the opinion that Patriarch Alexy II and those clergymen who were forced to cooperate with the organs of the KGB must repent before the whole people. Another opinion is that all the people in Russia must bring repentance for their participation in the godless state, that everyone is indirectly guilty of the sin of regicide, that the blood of the Tsar-Martyr and the Royal family is upon the whole nation. On the other hand, people in Russia often say: “We suffered here in poverty, and you lived well abroad. And now we must repent!?” Well, many still do not understand how and what to bring repentance for. I feel that the entire Russian people, all Russian Orthodox people both in the fatherland and abroad must bring repentance for our departure from the laws and rules of piety. But how and to what degree we violated these laws and rules–each person knows himself. Let us bring repentance to Christ Himself, each for himself and for everyone.

What are your impressions of the meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin?

We, the archpastors of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, were completely satisfied with our meeting and conversation with President Putin. He understands all the difficulties which exist between the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate. Still, Mr. President feels that the time has come to take steps to reach an agreement on overcoming those difficulties which lie in the path of the normalization of relations between the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Interview given to Correspondent Pavel Korobov of Kommersant.

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